Glens Falls City School District recognizes national Teacher Appreciation Week by highlighting committed and enthusiastic teachers from every one of our schools each day of the week! Read on for an inside interview with Amanda Burt, Bethany Carpenter, and Lindsey St. Clair—they teach two fourth grade inclusive classes at Big Cross.
Amanda Burt graduated from Glens Falls High School (Proud GF Nation Alum!!). She then got her bachelors at Russell Sage College and masters at Sage Graduate School.
Bethany Carpenter graduated from South Glens Falls High. She then went to SUNY Oneonta to get her bachelors degree, and continued with her masters degree at the College of St. Josephs in Vermont.
Lindsey St. Clair graduated from Whitehall High School. She then completed her bachelors degree at College of Saint Rose, and got her masters at University at Albany.
What is the best thing about inclusion and consultant team teaching?
Amanda: The best thing about inclusion is seeing a diverse group of students come together, form bonds/friendships and support each other not only academically but in other ways too. Being part of a consultant teaching team is nice because I have someone to bounce ideas off of and someone that might have a different take on things than I do. Mrs. St. Clair is extremely creative and always helps me when I am stuck or don’t know know how to do something. As the saying goes “two heads are better than one” and I think when we put our minds together we can accomplish so much more! It is also so much fun working with Mrs. St. Clair and I think we make a great team. We keep each other laughing and smiling all day which I think creates a great environment for the kids as well as us!
Bethany: The best thing about the inclusion model is that it allows more opportunities for small groups and stronger modeling during lessons. I really enjoy planning lessons together because it allows the two of us to bounce ideas off each other in order to deliver the strongest, most creative lessons. We also have a lot of fun together which gives a positive atmosphere for the students to learn.
Lindsey: This model has allowed all of us to collaborate and get creative in terms of finding the best and most effective ways to meet all of our students’ diverse needs. Amanda and Bethany are amazing teammates–their flexibility and willingness to think outside of the box in terms of delivering instruction and providing small group support as often as possible has been instrumental in allowing me to meet individual needs and layer supports. Plus, our support staff in 4th grade is wonderful and have been critical in helping our students. It truly takes a village and I’m very grateful for the one we have!
How did you make the “transition” from your previous style?
Amanda: The transition to inclusion has been difficult but rewarding! It is quite an adjustment to go from basically making all the classroom decisions yourself to having another person that you need to be in sync with. It requires you to be very organized and have everything planned far in advance so that your consultant teacher can do what they need to do. Once I adjusted to that, things started to fall into place. I feel after working with my consultant teacher last year (Mrs. Chapman) and Mrs. St. Clair this year I have become a better teacher. When you work with such talented people, they start to rub off on you! They have helped me grow and see things in a different way!
Bethany: It was an adjustment having another adult in the room and sharing the responsibilities for our class. I was very comfortable in my ways when it came to being in complete control of my classroom, the lessons taught, and the classroom management. Having another teacher in the room to share ideas and space was a big change. After giving it some time, I have grown to love it and have a hard time seeing moving away from team teaching.
Lindsey: It takes time to learn each other’s styles and preferences, and communication has been key. Coming from a place of mutual respect and allowing each of us to share ideas and a willingness to be flexible has been critical in developing our collaborative style. We know that none of us has all of the answers and so we trust each other to trial different things or attempt different approaches if we see something isn’t working. Most importantly, we can make each other laugh and get through the tough moments. That has been paramount for me.
Describe your favorite lesson or unit from this year … and what did the students think of it?
Amanda: My favorite lesson from this year was a lesson on identifying angles with SpongeBob. Each student made their own mini SpongeBob on a square piece of paper. Then they learned that if SpongeBob doesn’t fit in the angle, it’s acute. If SpongeBob fits just right, it is a right angle, and if he has room to dance, it’s an obtuse angle. After doing some practice ones on paper the kids went around the school looking for different types of angles using their SpongeBobs. I have one student in particular who is a HUGE SpongeBob fan so I was really excited for him to do this lesson! All the kids had a great time doing it and it really stuck in their minds. I was also able to reference this lesson in the following weeks to remind them, by saying things like “does SpongeBob have some room to dance?” and they would immediately remember it was an obtuse angle!
Bethany: My favorite unit that I teach is the first unit of the school year where the students interpret characters by reading Tiger Rising. The students reflect on problems that the characters face and relate it to their own lives. The students love the book and we were even able to watch the new movie based on the book.
Lindsey: I really enjoyed the Travel Days we did, centered around this year’s PARP theme “Reading Takes You Places”. Our 4th graders teamed up in groups to research different countries and completed a project-based learning approach to creating the way they wanted to teach other students about that country. They chose an activity or craft to complete with other grade levels and how they wanted to display information they had learned. Every Tuesday of March, other grade levels would “travel” to 4th grade to visit different countries that our 4th graders presented. They took ownership of their project from start to finish and it was amazing to see how well they initiated the teamwork and innovation to create such diverse final products.
How was pandemic teaching for you? How are you doing now?
Amanda: Pandemic teaching was crazy! I will admit, it was nice to be able to teach in comfy clothes right from the comfort of my own home but it was really difficult to be away from the students and my coworkers for such a long period of time. It was very challenging to change lessons and come up with different ways to engage students online with very little time to pivot to virtual learning. It really highlighted how important our in-person interactions are and how much I enjoy being around the kids each day! As much as I love technology, teaching virtually never seemed to go the way you wanted it to! You would plan and test things out and then all of a sudden things wouldn’t work. It was so frustrating! I think throughout all of the changes we have adapted and made the best of each situation. It is really nice to be back to (mostly) “normal” and see everyone’s faces again! I think the pandemic strengthened the bonds of our building and our district and I feel extremely lucky to work with the very best group of people every day!
Bethany: Pandemic teaching was a big adjustment. I was not a fan of virtual teaching and it was very difficult last year when we had students in person and also online. This year has been much better and it is one of my favorite years since I have started teaching. Having the students working closely together and also being able to unmask has been such a positive change in this school year as well.
Lindsey: It certainly has been a roller coaster! It has not been an easy road, but oftentimes it’s the challenging moments that we grow most from. I have learned a lot from this pandemic experience and feel like it has shaped me into a stronger teacher. I have more appreciation and gratitude for the simple things that perhaps I took for granted prior to 2020…like full faces and lunchrooms 🙂